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Cloning Catastrophes

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Monsanto has taken its genetically engineered (GE) insect-resistant biotech potato off the market. This potato is engineered to produce an insect toxin, which is distributed throughout the plant to kill insect pests..

Monsanto has taken its genetically engineered (GE) insect-resistant biotech potato off the market. This potato is engineered to produce an insect toxin, which is distributed throughout the plant to kill insect pests.

Farmers weren't willing to pay the premium for the biotech seeds. Also, major food companies were refusing the modified spuds because of the controversy over biotech foods.

Transgenic Cows in Quebec
A Dutch-based biotech firm called Pharming Group wants to breed transgenic cows in St-Marcel de Richelieu, a small Quebec farming village. The animals carry a human gene that enables the cows to produce in their milk a human protein that can be extracted to make pharmaceuticals.

While Pharming Group is offering to build a $20 million facility and create 40 jobs, residents are concerned about breeding cows with human genes.

Medical Catastrophe
Researchers looking for a cure to degenerative brain diseases implanted biotech fetal cells (stem cells) into the brains of Parkinson's disease patients. For 15 per cent of those who received the implants, the outcome was worse than the disease. These patients began to writhe, jerk their heads uncontrollably and throw their arms about involuntarily as the fetal brain cells intended to produce dopamine (the chemical that is depleted in Parkinson's sufferers) went into overdrive. The researchers reported, "It was tragic, catastrophic. And we can't selectively turn it off."

Labelling Bill in British Columbia
Graeme Bowbrick, Attorney General and Minister for Responsible for Human Rights in BC has introduced Bill 18 for mandatory labelling of genetically engineered food. BC is the first Canadian provincial government to introduce legislation for labelling GE foods.

One Sheep, Two Sheep
Numerous scientists, including Dr Ian Wilmut, who cloned Dolly the sheep, warn about the problems of cloning. At best, only a small percentage of cloned embryos survive to birth. Of those, many die within a few days. Even when born, clones often exhibit various physical ailments, including respiratory distress, circulatory problems, immune dysfunction and kidney or brain malformation, which can lead to death. For all these reasons, the scientists warn against human cloning.

Of 28 cloned cattle embryos recently implanted into Hereford cows at a research facility in California, three embryos survived to birth. Of these three, two died within a few weeks. The third was sick and under close watch.

StarLink in Canada
In March 2001, Canada's Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief announced that several shipments of corn from the USA were confiscated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at the border because the corn was contaminated with StarLink, a genetically engineered variety not approved in Canada. However, Minister Vanclief later admitted that not all the unapproved corn was caught; some was accidentally fed to animals.

Italian Police Raids
In Italy, police recently seized 112 tonnes of banned genetically engineered corn when they raided a Monsanto warehouse. The police went on to check seed stocks of 21 firms for illegal genetic material. In Sicily, Italian authorities seized stocks of biscuits from a subsidiary of Pittsburgh-based HJ Heinz Company because they were believed to contain GE ingredients.

Monsanto Threatens North Dakota
The North Dakota legislature is considering a moratorium on transgenic wheat. The state is concerned they will not be able to sell the wheat on the international market. Monsanto is threatening to stop its wheat research in North Dakota if the state approves the moratorium.

This is Richard's last biotech column for alive magazine. We are grateful for his contribution to alive in the past several years. alive will carry on the fight to ban genetically engineered foods and will bring you regular information in the fight for the future of safe food.

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